Media Cross-Ownership Rules At Risk
Common Cause has been drawing attention to the dangerous and growing problem of media consolidation. As fewer and fewer businesses own larger and larger shares of our information ecosystem, diversity and plurality of opinion suffer, and viewpoints outside a very narrow ideological range are shut out. What’s more, consolidated media behemoths don’t reflect the communities in which they operate, and can’t hope to cover local issues responsively.
The FCC has enforced some basic rules to slow this trend–regulations prevent a company from owning both local print and local broadcast outlets in a given community. These so-called “cross-ownership” rules have done a lot to slow the growth of media conglomerates, but unfortunately, the FCC might soon change its tune.
A decade of Internet growth, fast-changing technologies and plunging newspaper revenues — along with the nation’s focus on recovering from the Great Recession — have altered views. Few people seem to care much if newspapers and television stations hook up in the same metropolitan area.
That could be a boon for a handful of firms, including Los Angeles Times parent Tribune Co., as well as a relief for the FCC, which is trying for a third time in 10 years to loosen rules that limit media consolidation.
The less-contentious atmosphere stems partly from the decision of some key media companies to sever their broadcast businesses from their lower-valued newspaper units.
“It ought to be … a huge issue. Big media wanted us to believe the age of media consolidation was over, but not so,” said former FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, who had opposed loosening the rules in 2003 and 2007 and now heads a Common Cause effort to highlight the problems of media consolidation.
He pointed to Comcast Corp.’s takeover of NBCUniversal last year and Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc.’s purchase this year of seven TV stations from Four Points Media.